Louis Esterhuizen. John Kinsella oor Melbourne as die kragpunt van wêreldpoësie

 

Via ‘n skakel by die Poetry Foundation beland ek op The Sydney Morning Herald se webblad waar die bekende digter, John Kinsella, ‘n nogal oortuigende saak uit te make het oor Melbourne as die ‘epicentre of world poetry’.  Eers wou ek sinies glimlag, maar toe ek begin lees, raak ek al hoe meer onder die indruk van Kinsella se redevoering: “Melbourne is an ‘epicentre in world poetry’. It has long been a dynamic focus for Australian poetry publishing, and it’s a major plus that there are publishers with substantially differing attitudes to the practice. The tensions, crossovers, departures and even conflicts of the various ”scenes” (reductive word) are generative, and intensify a debate about why poetry is written, why it matters and what it might achieve,” skryf hy in sy openingsparagraaf.

 

John Kinsella

Volgens hom lê die dinamika van Melbourne as poëtiese kragpunt in die vreemde teenstrydigheid dat dit sowel parogiaal as internasionaal is in sy aanslag. Hierin is dit veral die groot verskeidenheid boekwinkels, uitgewers en natuurlik die plaaslike universiteite wat ‘n belangrike rol te spele het: “Diversity is at the heart of poetry, and change comes from the movements (and frictions) between many voices. But the universities are just part of it. Melbourne has a long and lively history of performance poetry and a vibrant reading scene […] This isn’t just a case of hearing a poet reading in Melbourne as one might hear a poet reading in any city, but hearing a poet whose world view is shaped by the lens of Melbourne, particular suburbs of Melbourne, being part of the Greek community and other communities and collectives. There’s a sharing that goes on in the work that I think gets to the core of Melbourne as poetry epicentre.”

Nou ja, toe. Gaan lees gerus die volledige artikel indien dit jou interesseer. Wat my egter opgeval het, en na alle waarskynlikheid die rede vir hierdie blog is, is Kinsella se twee slotparagrawe. Hierin word myns insiens besonder belangrike opmerkings gemaak ten opsigte van die digkuns. Met soos gebruiklik, gevolg deur ‘n gedig van John Kinsella.

Poetry, for me, is an act of responsibility, and every poem is an activist moment: a way of suggesting or even bringing change. I am not interested in poems that tell readers what to think, but I do think poems should prompt self-investigation and questioning. I am a poet of the West Australian wheatbelt with some Cambridge fenland sensibilities thrown into the mix, and I tend to avoid cities. But I am reinvigorated by contact with Melbourne’s urbanity and poetic energy. It reminds me of San Francisco and London melded into one, and the sense of the Mallee or the Wimmera is never too far from its shores.

At a time when the recognition of literary activity by a broader public is fraught (and in Queensland, in crisis), especially when their taxes are used to reward or fund writing work and outcomes, Melburnians outside the poetry communities, outside the individual writers, might celebrate or at least value what they have and how worth supporting and encouraging it is in its many forms, many manifestations, and in its intense diversity.

Why should non-poets care? Because poetry is at the foundations of language. It uses words and it makes them as well. How we speak, think and communicate is affected directly and indirectly by poetry. The experience of poetry is everywhere, from songs to ”poetic” language in most forms of writing. Poetry isn’t an appendage; it’s the body itself.

***

Sanctus, Sanctum: a love poem

i.

The smallest measure of matter
leaves traces before it vanishes:
the energy lost or exchanged
in cycling out to Grantchester
is love and prayer, duotone
landscapes and seasonal osmosis:
we were there, time wound-back
like progress come unstuck,
the largest ever hole in the ozone
layer, defined against the size of America.
A spoonbill larger than life,
mythological on its perch, dégagé –
as it should be, we’d guess.
That’s back there, where we’d
be together if conditions were perfect.
Burnt white totem of the Avon Valley,
as if “sedate order” watches over
communities and is positive
in a way we know it’s not, like the Eloi
being everywhere in the English lyric,
or picnicking by an Australian river.
When the weather goes out of kilter
paragliders over Bakewell
drop as suddenly as they appear:
the spoonbill’s beak’s utility
becomes a rhythmic disaster:
isochronous: stress stress stress:
laneways where moisture clings
and growth meets rot and the cycle
plods its weary way. Holy, holy, holy.

ii.

That fox wrapped around
that roadsign – fashion piece
with flair, cured by the weather,
mummified. The Larrikin is in there.
Jokes about gender. Product
of nationalism, those soft endings,
para-rhymes and racism, bounties
and scalps and making a living.
Who cares? It’s been up there
for weeks. People have seen it,
remarked on it: tasteless,
but then, they hold the hunt
for sheer pleasure and foxes
are despised: “they eat the livers –
livers so small! – out of chickens,
and leave the rest”. Fox spot,
Kentucky Fried Fox, Red Fox,
why the hell not? The ads
fall apart, and that’s what
selling’s all about. There’s no-one
to hear this as I mouth the words,
which reject the page,
the driving by, the twinkle
in the cavernous eyes
of a small head, teeth still shining,
needle sharp.

iii.

A band strikes up a conversation,
and it’s as if I’m there. Let’s ditch
this stuff about centuries, about
Ages of . . . and grand alliances.
It’s global chatter. I love,
I care . . . you know me.
And you know this doesn’t
give life to THEE!
Poetry is a crematorium.
Love doesn’t need it.
The Granta is thick with weed
and smart cars are bunched up
outside Lord Archer’s house . . .
what more do we need?

 

© John Kinsella (Uit: Peripheral Light- Selected and New Poems, 2003:  Fremantles Centre Arts Press) 

 

 

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